Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Was Zac & Mia inspired by The Fault in Our Stars?
A. Heck no. I began writing Zac & Mia in February, 2009, inspired by my work on a teen cancer ward (where I've taught since 2004 and still work, part-time). I finished the manuscript late 2011, with no inkling that halfway around the world, a guy called John Green was simultaneously writing about teens with cancer. How could I have imagined this?!
When I found out, I almost threw my manuscript away. Luckily, friends talked me out of this and urged me to do what I'd planned with it all along: to enter it into the 2012 Text Prize (for an unpublished manuscript). I did so, and won :-) After editing, the novel came out in 2013.
The timing was unfortunate (I think) but I've had to learn to accept that it's ok - the books are completely different and there's room for plenty of novels in the world. Besides, Zac & Mia isn't 'about cancer'. It's the catalyst for the characters meeting, but the novel is about other things: life, friendship, courage, and beauty.
Q. Why are you so slow!?
A. Sorry (not sorry). The story evolves as I write it, taking unexpected turns. A lot of my best ideas develop when I'm not at my laptop. I don't write constantly - I also teach, speak at schools and festivals, ride my bike, travel, study (I'm doing my PhD) socialise (occasionally), watch films and read. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, which means I spend about five times as long editing as I do writing. My theory is I'd rather spend five years writing something that has meaning, than two years writing something that doesn't resonate.
Q. Are you working on anything new?
A. Yes - and it's something completely different. I began writing it in late 2012, and haven't stopped since. It's a two-book series set in a future Tasmania (Australia) and is a surprising, thrilling kind of speculative fiction. Both novels will be coming out in 2018. I can't wait! And if John Green publishes something soon about an isolated community in a fictional, futuristic Tasmania, I'll be very annoyed! ;-)
Q. Where do your ideas come from?
A. Everywhere. Sometimes ideas are inspired by real life (like Zac & Mia) but mostly inspiration comes from small things that I see or find or overhear. These things make me curious...and then they make me wonder. The world is filled with surprises and hidden stories.
Q. How do I become a better writer?
A. Carry your stories in your head. Let them breathe. Let the characters find their own way. Don't rush them. Ask 'what if?' Ask 'what then?' Ask 'why does it matter?' Read good stories. Read bad stories and work out why they annoy you. Edit. A lot. Make good writing your goal, not publication. (Publication will come, eventually, if you work hard enough and want it hard enough. But it's not the goal of a good writer.) Travel. Observe. Daydream. Be a good person. Spend time alone. Be in nature. Be fearless.
Q. What are some useful websites to help me improve my writing?
Q. Where can I buy your books?
A. Click here for more details (I don't sell books directly).
Here's a link to a blog post by Joy Lawn which may answer them.